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Drop the tired formula

Stephen Hornsby-Smith


If I drop the tired formula of formalism is original 2D medium of Painting able to deal with the shortfall in replacing it? Of course! 160 years of modernism and centuries of perspective in Painting since Giotto can more than manage the originality of the visual risk of taking on the discipline of a restricted space of the canvas to include all the multi verse of mortal coil in life and our place in it.Right? OK , maybe I'm being a bit ambitious here, but why not start from the Universe being able to transfer its eternal secrets to us mere mortals from One Big bang to another?

To drop a tired overused Art formula of 'formalism' is about embracing our hierarchy of emotional and spiritual responses as much as it is about reacting to the hazardous assumptions about Art entertainment, leisure, low grade and high grade Art . I don't offer revolution or counter revolution but i do think that we can circumnavigate all barricades without going to war with 'foolopoly' and the word of Conceptual bark. Strip the bark away and Art 's sap has tried up without Paint. Perhaps we should fight with image creation and visual originality instead? But why the medium of Painting to do this? Let's start with the cramped claustrophobic restrictive and limiting nature of the canvas : Why not evoke all the energy of 2D human frailty by pinning a brush with some paint at the end of it on some thin 2D canvas to fumble its way into unconscious or subconscious accidents of nature to guide our way through the universe? Grip the brush and the discipline of the self-affliction of human struggle and you escape the real confines of the cold logic and negativity of form strait jacketed and not liberated by relativism that spikes the immense potential of the human spirit. Join the symmetry and its opposite, jump at the ultimate challenge of a definitive space and jump the quantum leap that can cram the Universe into it. Let the drawbridge down, avoid the seige of form! The extremity of human discovery and the risk of it misfiring must be the incentive to launch the most staggering an endless challenge of putting the universe inside a flat canvas. Our visual canvas must open-up the blind spot of our panoramic view.

As a young bloke I'd travelled before, during and after University, trying to find-out what i valued, sleeping on trains, platforms derelict roof tops, ferries and fishing boats, constantly changing plans to keep it fresh, trying out different personas in different contexts. I'd been in a play or two before and at University, and someone even let me co-direct - experimenting did little to loosen-up the hard lines of Politics of the 80s for me. It wasn't until I did an evening course at Leeds Art College that things felt right. I rarely attended, but it set me off ! I'd like to say that I marked the stages of my 31 year Painting fest by linking them to relationships and friendships, but I started to paint in earnest when I got back from the USA in January 88 because I was crest fallen and bored, and they do not mix well !

However I did exhibit stuff at Jacob Kramer Art College in 86, and I learnt how to play along and piss people off at the same time. A very valuable lesson that was made clear when everyone else from my generation were in 'lock-down' of middle-age by the time they were 23! Simplistically I thought I was resisting the call of the mortgage and rejecting the 'signing-on' professional status. I thought everyone else had chosen perks and benefits rather than stick it out..... all water under the bridge now. But my salvation was the discovery of colour. It became my manifesto, my reference point and my guide, and it became my passion. But it wasn't by chance that I found its perfect muse: the 'Med'. It wasn't by chance that I lived near the coast in Catalonia for a glorious year of heat indulgence and raw whimsical anger. It was in Barcelona that I picked a fight with Art snobs, sceptics and cynics who enjoyed too much influence in the Art world and yet often retreated to their bunker offormalism to protect their 'precious', the Ring to rule all rings : Conceptual Fart' !

So, sure I wrote a few polemics about Art or politics, dabbled in poetry, dialogues for theatre, short stories, blogs, cartoons and a spoof tabloid that I created, but Painting is my passion. As an old geezer, I'm still going to leave the thinking about middle-age to when I'm 'elderly and disorderly'.. I'm looking forward to never retiring when my peers are all 'shot' and exhausted and don't know what to do with the rest of their lives! Perhaps they'll join me on the bus devoid of their Mercs and BMW's. Me? I hope that I'll be cracking open a new image and enjoying all the benefits of happy accidents (No! Not the dreaded 'followthrough'). and nuance meets the bold,which are the best companion of' life in improvisation'. So my semi-abstract, colourful,and almost naive friction of Painting does what I expect the least of life : it partly resolves the unsettling nature of my restive spirit, whilst the rest of me needs to document all my cock-ups! Without that 'going against my own grain' I'd be lost!

We now know why I paint, but do we know why I should Paint? The visual image is a consolation and a liberator ! But here's why :Imagine a hypothetical situation of a mother losing her child. There are very few words that can console her, and it is hubris to cling on to our delusion that we can find them. But i believe the visual image transcends all barriers to begin tthe process of genuine 'healing grieving', and can act as a conductor of comfort inspite of despair. How else can we express the human condition but as one of letting pain go...? Agony is shared, tragedy reconciles with time the image of full hearts both tender and joyful freed by memory of love - some may say I'm talking about Renaissance religious imagery, but i believe passionately that modernism can eulogize and make tranquil too. Where is this most convincing? In Modernist Painting ! I believe in the power and joy of modernism, and I make the confession and I visit the confessions of other as an act of human solidarity and the handing-on the baton of bearing witness. I believe also that it's time to let formalism bygones be bygones, especially as the Berlin Wall of mutual Artistic conflict has truly been and gone ! The only water under the bridge should still not be the urination of imbibing form and then weeing it out in a drunken stupor. Like the most famous bridge in London, it's time to open the drawbridge and let all traffic through.

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